Monthly Archives: June 2017

1 July, Saturday – Stories

1 July 

________________

Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.

‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’ Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’ But the Lord asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.’ ‘I did not laugh’ Sarah said, lying because she was afraid. But he replied, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

________________ 

Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.

________________

You have believed, so let this be done for you.

The stories from today’s readings are all examples of faith in action. Faith lets us see through different eyes, as if the scales of skepticism are removed and we perceive with a more trusting and open heart. Last night I was at a faith meeting. I am usually a little apprehensive about going to these things. Most of the time, I try to put it off because I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability that comes from opening up to a roomful of strangers. The fault lies with me completely. So I sit in a corner, arms folded across my chest and just listen, attempting all the while to suspend my wordly skepticism. I want to be supportive of my faith sisters, and I am hoping my disbelief isn’t obvious. Very often I struggle with the right response. So I simply listen and hope the Holy Spirit will pry the scales from my eyes so I can ‘see’.

We are all made for stories, that is how the human race communicates truths – through sharing stories. To listen to someone’s story and to allow that truth into our hearts requires us to give ourselves over to wonder. Very often, we will not be able to identify with their circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to apply the truth that God is trying to teach us. Who will really know if Sarah had a baby in her nineties? The truth of her story though is not so much that she was blessed with motherhood, but that she, like us, did the very human thing of faltering and finding her way again. She vacillated, as we would have done, between faith and disbelief. And through the long years of waiting, she did the very human thing of trying to sort it out for herself. Though her efforts were met with mixed results — eventually she grew cynical and resigned herself to her childlessness — the truth in Sarah’s story is that God did not give up on her, even though she might have felt that He had.

I’m waiting for God to answer a prayer at the moment. I have to admit, my attempts at prayer have been somewhat half-hearted, as if I am afraid to even ask this of Him. It’s such a ‘practical life issue’, but isnt’t that when God truly surprises us? By showing us resolutions to practical life issues? Last night, He compelled me to go to a faith meeting; something I rarely do. There I was reminded of how His hand works in the lives of others, how the concept of ‘Time’ for God is both a lot slower and a lot quicker than what we think. And though this morning, a cloud of anxiety still hangs over me, I am comforted by that it is normal to have this human condition of faltering. He still ‘sees’ me – even if I struggle to ‘see’ Him. And He will help me hold on to Hope while I wait, just as He has with so many others before me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray that God will help us to hold on to Hope, that we not grow discouraged from the waiting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are courageous enough to share their faith stories, that we too may share in the truths that God has shown them.

30 June, Friday – Purpose

30 June – First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the “Protomartyrs of Rome”. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

________________

Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El Shaddai. Bear yourself blameless in my presence, and I will make a Covenant between myself and you. You on your part shall maintain my Covenant, yourself and your descendants after you, generation after generation. Now this is my Covenant which you are to maintain between myself and you, and your descendants after you: all your males must be circumcised.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her and moreover give you a son by her. I will bless her and nations shall come out of her; kings of peoples shall descend from her.’ Abraham bowed to the ground, and he laughed, thinking to himself, ‘Is a child to be born to a man one hundred years old, and will Sarah have a child at the age of ninety?’ Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, let Ishmael live in your presence!’ But God replied, ‘No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son whom you are to name Isaac. With him I will establish my Covenant, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. For Ishmael too I grant you your request: I bless him and I will make him fruitful and greatly increased in numbers. He shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But my Covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear you at this time next year.’ When he had finished speaking to Abraham God went up from him.

________________ 

Matthew 8:1-4

After Jesus had come down from the mountain large crowds followed him. A leper now came up and bowed low in front of him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘if you want to, you can cure me.’ Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ And his leprosy was cured at once. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Mind you do not tell anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence for them.’

________________

If you want to, you can cure me

The whole concept of having a child is a difficult one for me. My parents gave me a charmed upbringing, the kind of childhood I would want for my own offspring. They gave us the life they had wanted for themselves. Every generation wants to do right by the one after it. We want to pass on the gift of parenthood that we ourselves received. As the years go by though, the odds of me giving this wonderful gift myself have begun to diminish. And while today, there are ample opportunities for women to find fulfilment outside of motherhood, the fear of missing out on one of life’s great events hangs like a cloud over me. Am I making the right decisions? Is this part of God’s purpose? Did I choose the right path? You constantly second guess yourself and wonder whether you have misread the signs.

Having uprooted his family and staked his purpose on being the father of many, that they were still childless twenty four years on must have caused Abram and Sarai much grief. From his perspective, Abram must have felt that he had angered God somewhere, that his life had been a failure. And Sarai would have shared that sense of failure with him, for all that she had tried to do with Hagar, Ishmael and surrogacy. She would have felt, as a woman, that she had not just failed herself, she had failed those that God had entrusted her with – her husband, her maidservant and the innocent child that Hagar had borne her husband. As a woman living in those times, to have to be defined like that would have been emotionally wrenching.

So often in Scripture, ‘failure’ and ‘imperfection’ are used as vehicles for His greatest work. God seeks out the lost, the failed, those who have given their best efforts yet fallen short; those who feel like life has beaten them, that they have made so many mistakes they can’t possibly find their way back. He seeks them out and gives them new life, new purpose – “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matt 8:17)! A leper is healed and made clean. A man, well beyond his parenting years becomes father to a multitude. And a woman, resigned to her own failure, bears the seed that fulfils His great promise despite her circumstances. “Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10) – because I derive my strength from Him. Look to Him if today you feel lost. Place your hope in Him. There is purpose here, even if you can’t see it. Place your trust in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the endurance to keep holding on to Hope, despite difficult circumstances.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His redeeming love, for His capacity to create new life from failure, for how He brings purpose where we ourselves see none. 

29 June, Thursday – For I Was Thirsty And You Gave Me Drink

29 June – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed ‘Peter’ (Rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.

Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.

He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

_________________

Acts 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

___________________

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

____________________

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

____________________

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.”

This verse’s richness stirred my heart to question how Christians should perform their earthly mission. During our limited time here, how do I give the best of myself to glorify our Creator while not counting the costs of my sacrifice? Are we vessels of limitless capacity? What is the value of our outpouring?

The symbolism of water in the bible is significant. Be it used for baptism, to perform miracles, or as a catalyst for God’s plan, water is life-giving and precious. However, I have both wasted, and yearned for it, probably in equal parts. My short-sightedness has stunted the development of a consciousness for the value of water, independent of its immediate use. This selfish attitude towards something so fundamental to human life cannot be in concert with how God wants us to be.

If we are to be instruments of God, made perfect by his disposition of grace and mercies, then we need to strive to be as pure as the water we desire for ourselves. Only then can we freely give it to others regardless of their response.

I have started to reflect on whether I nourish or dehydrate those around me, and am striving to be a beautiful vessel to be used as a catalyst for God’s work. May we never underestimate God’s ability to use us in spite of what we think of ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer – Dear Lord, help us to be life-giving in all our encounters with your people. Make us your useful instruments to nourish our fellow pilgrims.

Thanksgiving – We thank you God for the uniqueness of your creation. May we embrace our uniqueness, and cherish the gifts you have bestowed on all of your children whom you call by name.

28 June, Wednesday – The Usual Suspects

St. Irenaeus, bishop, martyr

Irenaeus (c.130–202) was a disciple of St. Polycapr of Smyrna. He was ordained in 177. He was Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyons, France). He worked and wrote against Gnosticism, basing his arguments on the works of St. John the Apostle, whose gospel is often cited by Gnostics. He dispatched evangelists, including St. Ferreolus of Besancon, and St. Ferrutio of Bescancon. He is considered the first great Western ecclesiastical writer and theologian, and he emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, as well as Christ’s simultaneous human and divine nature, and the value of tradition. He is a Father of the Church, and was martyred for his faith.

28 June 2017

_________________

Genesis 15:1-12,17-18

It happened that the word of the Lord was spoken to Abram in a vision, ‘Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.’

‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘what do you intend to give me? I go childless…’ Then Abram said, ‘See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.’ And then this word of the Lord was spoken to him, ‘He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.’ Then taking him outside he said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.

Now as the sun was setting Abram fell into a deep sleep, and terror seized him. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,

from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River,

the river Euphrates.’

___________________

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

____________________

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves”

The first time I ever watched Kevin Spacey in a movie was in the 1995 suspense thriller The Usual Suspects. Spacey plays the role of Verbal Kint, a physically crippled, small time con artist who survives a gang related massacre. This sets the stage for the rest of the movie, with Verbal narrating the events leading up to this violent incident. Throughout the movie, the audience is led to believe that a ruthless, shadowy villain by the name of Keyser Söze was behind this crime while Verbal feebly watches as things unfold. However – during the last five minutes of the movie, it’s revealed that Verbal fabricated the story to cover up his evil deeds and was in fact Keyser Söze.

Jesus directly warns his disciples of those who appear to be in sheep’s clothe but are wolves in disguise. Their intentions are not to live harmoniously with the rest of the flock and follow our beloved shepherd, but to separate the weak and unsuspecting and devour the vulnerable. For as Paul wrote – “for such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15)

How do we recognize and guard against these antagonists of our faith? Jesus commands that we must first know who they are by examining their actions as “…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Our ability to discern good fruit from bad fruit would only be enhanced through the study of the Bible, prayer and fellowship. In time, those evil-doers will be revealed by their methods (2 Peter 2: 1-22) and doctrine (Galatians 1: 6-10).

The final line in the Usual Suspects is narrated by Spacey where he states “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, he’s gone”. Let us not be tricked by the devil and his false prophets. Let us arm ourselves with the word of the Lord, shielded by His grace and joined with other fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For as with Abraham, the fruits of our faith in Him are eternal and everlasting life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom to recognize and subdue the wolves in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for the power of your teachings and the grace of your new covenant – through the death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ.

27 June, Tuesday – Love

Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

  • – Patron Saint Index

27 June 2017

_________________

Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

___________________

Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

____________________

“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

I believe that all of us, in some way, want to be accepted, to feel belonged, to be loved. But how many of us accept and love others back?

Indeed, where it says, “enter by the narrow gate; since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many of us prefer the easy way out, choosing not to rock the boat and yet we wonder why we are still struggling with problems that are not going away; surrounded by people who don’t change, even wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayers. But I guess, sometimes, God places us in such situations where we are called to effect change.

However, many times, we resort to using either experience, authority or even qualifications as a means to effect change rather than love. How do we hope for others to speak to us? How do we hope for others to treat us? And hence in our Gospel today, we read “so always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

This is the narrow road we are encouraged to take, for we will always question, why is it we need to love first, forgive first? And sometimes, how many more times do we need to do so for others to realise, for them to finally change. The beauty of our faith is that there is no answer to those questions except to continue to love. Love isn’t about allowing oneself to be used or taken advantage of; love is speaking and living the truth.

For we live our lives not based on what others say about us but what God says. Created with love, from love, we are also called to love. Not as how we know it but as how God has loved us by His example. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to persevere in love not to receive love in return but because we have already received through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us be Christ to others, to all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for our own conversion, for the many times we have been selfish. We pray also for perseverance as we continue to do your will and build your kingdom, a kingdom of love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for understanding us, for helping us to see beyond ourselves, to help us see what really matters, what is really important, what is it we actually live for and what gives us life.

26 June, Monday – Do Not Judge

26 June 2017

_________________

Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:

I will curse those who slight you.

All the tribes of the earth

shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had amassed and the people they had acquired in Haran. They set off for the land of Canaan, and arrived there.

Abram passed through the land as far as Shechem’s holy place, the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘It is to your descendants that I will give this land.’ So Abram built there an altar for the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the mountainous district east of Bethel, where he pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. Then Abram made his way stage by stage to the Negeb.

___________________

Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’

____________________

“Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

This is a passage that many of us would be struggling with. Even as I was praying with the scriptures, my heart was already telling me that some people in my life should be reading this passage for they are not aware of their failings.

I try my very best to always be as aware as possible because it is never my intention to cause anyone any hurt or harm. But yet, it is usually during my reflection after an event that makes me realise the areas I did wrongly. I want the best for others, I want them to experience Christ, yet sometimes all that excitement and passion leads to me being impatient, resulting in frustration, disappointment and hurt, whether with myself or others. I am a perfectionist and most of the time, when I feel I can do better, I’ll try to get myself involved so that hopefully, I can help others be more aware.

But the real question is how aware am I actually? I don’t think it’s a lot to do with judging but more how much do we love the other? Do we love the other such that we will bring them up versus put them down, be patient and understanding with them versus force upon them compliance, encourage versus criticise?

I guess to a large extent, it is also about our pride. That I can’t have others being better than me thus I need to put people down so that I may be above. I feel I am able to manage my pride but what still frustrates me is when someone obviously cannot make it, but doesn’t feel that anything is wrong. And in order that I may not be like one towards others, I always remember to ask for feedback and constructive criticism in order that I may be aware of the log in my eye and hopefully be able to remove it.

I guess the challenge really is to see Christ in others. To look with love. There will always be logs and splinters, but I believe there will also always be love. Where there is love, there is God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will see not with the eyes of judgment but that of love. That we may always look to you, from your example, where you say “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. And where you still gave your life for us. Help us to continue to love as you did. Help us to be like you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your wisdom and for the challenges in our lives. Thank you for always providing us with that second chance. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for loving us always.

25 June, Sunday – Be Not Afraid

25 June 2017

_________________

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said: I hear so many disparaging me, ‘“Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’ But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs. But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.

___________________

Romans 5:12-15

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

__________________

Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

____________________

“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

Especially in today’s world, what many of us need as individuals is COURAGE. Courage to face the truth and courage to speak the truth. We find ourselves lacking in it because we don’t want to rock the boat, because our job/income is more important than what we are actually doing, or because we simply just want to fit in.

As the Gospel says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Indeed, the Gospel today brings us to reflect on the purpose of our lives, our identity. If our identity is in the world, then what the world says does matter to us and we will fear and succumb to the pressures of society. But if our identity is in Christ, then we know that, as in the first reading, “Yahweh is at my side like a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, vanquished, confounded by their failure…”, we do not need to fear.

Of course this is easier said than done. But we also read of “everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear”. I can testify to this because if we live a life in Christ, we live a life of love and love simply never fails. Over time, one doesn’t just see what we do or say but sees the heart; because at the end of the day, it is the intention that matters. It is that peace, freedom and joy that we gain by trusting in God and in ourselves, in who He has created us to be and I truly believe this is what we all actually desire and live for.

As Catholics, we feel that our ultimate goal is to know who God is, but the beauty is that in our seeking, we also find who we are. And when we say we love God, God asks us to love everyone around us. This is the God we worship — selfless, who loves us unconditionally, who takes away the sins of the world and desires to give us life to the fullest. Let us declare and proclaim that He is our God, our life, our everything. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord, we want to pray for courage. Courage to stay true to our faith and to ourselves. That we may never succumb to the pressures of the world. That we may live a life of love, to bring hope, joy, peace and love to all. That we will continue to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for continuously reaching out to us, for affirming us of your presence. Thank you for the gift of your grace, through your son, that has won for us our salvation. Amen.

24 June, Saturday – Humility

Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Birthday of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.

John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.

Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.

  • – Patron Saint Index

_________________

Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,

pay attention, remotest peoples.

The Lord called me before I was born,

from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,

and hid me in the shadow of his hand.

He made me into a sharpened arrow,

and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)

in whom I shall be glorified’;

while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,

I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,

my reward with my God.

I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,

my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,

he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,

to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;

I will make you the light of the nations

so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

___________________

Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

__________________

Luke 1:57-66, 80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

____________________

“And his spirit matured.

It is easy to be blindsided by ourselves in this day and age, when so much is made of what we can do, how much effort we put in and what we deserve. It is true that as humans, we are the pinnacle of creation, we can learn like no other creature and look how far we’ve come with the intellect and will to outdo all those that were before us. I shudder to think how full of myself I would be if I had been given the task that John the Baptist had. I might have said, “Well, if I hadn’t brought so many to repentance, Jesus’ time wouldn’t have come”.

But the 2nd reading tells us that John’s career ending words were, “I am not fit to undo his sandals”. I am immediately reminded of the history of the ‘Down in Adoration’. Two great men were commissioned to write the hymn for Corpus Christi, but St John of the Cross (another John), upon hearing what St Thomas Aquinas wrote, tore his version up. He didn’t say, “Maybe we can keep it and recycle the hymns, like how we have a liturgical cycle, or so that a future Pope might prefer his version.” No, he just conceded that Thomas’ was better and that was that.

So maybe the church is telling us that we should name our boys John if we want humble kids, St John Paul the Great was incredibly humble too. Ok, I’m sure it is more than just a name. In reflecting on humility, how many times have we been humble in dealing with an equal? So even someone that society says is below us, like the pantry lady, the estate cleaners, bus drivers and the list goes on. It can be easier for some of us to give all the glory to God for all good things come from him, but I feel like there are many times I have failed to give credit to the other people in my life who have helped me to get where I am, because there is no way I made it here on my own.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: That others may be loved more than I ,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, that, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed, that others may be preferred to me in everything, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. (Part of the litany of humility)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the people who have helped me in my life. I take some time to pray for some people I have never prayed for before.

23 June, Friday – Love

23 June 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

_________________

Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

‘If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments, but who punishes in their own persons those that hate him. He is not slow to destroy the man who hates him; he makes him work out his punishment in person. You are therefore to keep and observe the commandments and statutes and ordinances that I lay down for you today.’

_________________

1 John 4:7-16

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

___________________

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

____________________

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I find it a real struggle to talk about the most sacred heart of Jesus, a heart that is so big and bursting with love that my own heart cannot comprehend it. Blessed are those who can.

The devotion of the most sacred heart of Jesus speaks of Jesus’ unending and long-suffering love for humanity, and humanity’s indifference to his love in return. God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son that he might die so that we can live. God loved us first and redeemed us for Himself. We know this, we have learnt and read about this, yet how much of it do we understand?

We think our hearts are broken beyond repair when someone we love walks out on us or betrays us or cheats on us. Oh, our hearts seems so trivial in comparison to the betrayal that Jesus faced when we broke his heart! I have had my fair share of heartbreak in life but I cannot fathom and am not worthy to put myself in Jesus’ position to say that I understand, I empathise.

All I can say is God is love; to know love is to know God. To love one another, and not just in a romantic sense, is to love God. God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another. Remember the line in the musical Les Miserables: to love another person is to see the face of God? For this one moment, we are offered a glimpse of what God’s love for us feels like. I imagine that to fully embrace the extent of His love for us would be akin to that little glimpse multiplied by the blazing of a thousand suns.

When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of grief, there is a collective concern, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to reach out and help. There is a unified effort to stand for a purpose. This is love. Of course, we do not need something as terrible as a tragedy to show love. Love is manifested in many ways. The point is that we are all born with an innate sense to love one another. We are all capable to give and receive love. This is why we find babies so adorable, because they are all love. As we experience different things, our perception of love changes, which sadly is why some are driven to the ‘dark side’. But how we let others change our ability to love is within our control. If we know our worth — and we are worth A LOT to God — then with God’s grace, we can withstand the attempts of these things to corrupt us. God loved us first, and we have to remember always what His love is worth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Father, You redeemed us through Your Son, Jesus. What a price to pay! May our hearts burn for You with the same love that You have for us.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for loving us, even when we turned away from You. Yours is an unconditional and everlasting love, even though we are not worthy.

 

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • – Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • – Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • – Patron Saint Index

22 June 2017

_________________

2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

___________________

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

____________________

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.